A new project uses heartbreaking photos, text and video to tell the stories of the Palestinian families who lost more than three members in the 2014 Gaza war, the stories of their lives, their deaths and the survival of those left behind.
There is no shortage of numbers and statistics that are cited in telling, reporting on and remembering periods of war and violence. Often times certain wars come to be represented by numbers. The number of killed, wounded displaced. The number of homes damaged or destroyed. The number of days that the bombs fell, the number of days since they stopped.
It goes without saying that people are not numbers. One innovative and touching writing project in the Gaza Strip, We Are Not Numbers, aims to take those numbers, the way that so much of the world views far-off conflict, and recapture the human narratives they represent.
But photojournalists Anne Paq and Ala Qandil were haunted by one specific number about the 2014 Gaza war. One hundred and forty-two. The 142 families that lost three or more members. Obliterated families.
Paq, who as a member of the Activestills photography collective helped cover the 2014 war for +972 Magazine, met some of the families and their survivors before and during the war. In return visits over the past two years, she has met with 50 such families. Together with Qandil and other Palestinian journalists, the pair launched a multimedia web project on Friday, using photos, in-depth text, animations, infographics, short videos, and design elements to tell their stories.
(View the project at obliteratedfamilies.com)
The Kilani family of Beit Lahiya lost 11 members on July 21, 2014. Ibrahim al-Kilani, an architect who lived in Germany for 20 years before moving back to Gaza, was killed along with his wife and five children in the bombing of the Salam residential tower in Gaza City. They had sought shelter there after being told by the Israeli military to leave their own home.
Ibrahim and all five children were German nationals. He is survived by two children from an earlier marriage who still live in Berlin.
The area of the online project dedicated to the Kilani family powerfully combines photographs, video and text to tell the story of Ibrahim and his family, from tales of childhood games hiding in orchards from Israeli warplanes in the 1960s, to joining his now-adult son, Ramsis, at Palestinian solidarity protests in present day Berlin.
Through the various types of media, the reader is drawn into the story, as emotionally packed image followed by heartbreaking video pushes through the screen in order to attach faces, possessions, and memories to families that might otherwise exist only as a harrowing statistic.
Five families’ stories are being published Friday along with the website itself. The remaining chapters are scheduled to be published over the coming 51 days, corresponding with date of the respective family’s obliteration.
The website is also slated to include factsheets, infographics, and a library section with a photo gallery, a downloadable exhibition, additional interviews, and other features.
The web project was preceded by a short film, “Gaza: A Gaping Wound,” which can be viewed on the site’s homepage.